DOJ Leadership Address*
Deputy Attorney General
The Great Hall
November 8, 2001 - 11:00 am
We stand at a critical juncture in the life of our nation and the Department of Justice. The threat of international terrorism that we confront today is unlike any challenge we have faced in our history.
Terrorism poses a challenge both to our national security and to our criminal justice system. America's response to terrorism must, therefore, deploy the full resources of the national security and criminal justice communities. We must tear down the bureaucratic walls that separate component from component and department from department. We must instill a new culture of cooperation. And we must be guided by shared objectives, not parochial organizational interests.
As the Attorney General has emphasized, we in the Department of Justice must focus our efforts on preventing terrorists from committing additional atrocities, not simply on investigating and prosecuting crimes once they have been committed. Our overriding priority is to ensure that all necessary and appropriate steps are taken to protect the American people, to prevent further attacks, and to disrupt terrorist cells before they can do more harm-even if it means potentially compromising a criminal prosecution.
Although we are facing unprecedented challenges, I am confident that America and the Department of Justice are more than equal to them. The recently enacted USA PATRIOT Act, which the President signed into law on October 26, arms us with new and vital weapons in the war on terror. These new weapons will enable us to coordinate with other federal agencies in our common quest to neutralize terrorists before they strike again.
One of the Act's most important features is that it breaks down barriers that historically have prevented the intelligence and law enforcement communities from sharing information with each other that could be critical to preventing terrorist attacks. Before the Act was passed, federal law restricted prosecutors' ability to share with the intelligence community information obtained in grand jury testimony or from a criminal wiretap. Evidence about an impending terrorist threat that was presented to a grand jury, for instance, could not be shared with CIA officials. In situations where additional time spent identifying and tracking down terrorists could cost people's lives, this limitation was a significant obstacle to preventing terrorist attacks.
Under the new law, law enforcement officers may now share grand jury and wiretap information regarding foreign intelligence with a wide range of federal personnel, including U.S. immigration authorities and members of the intelligence and national defense communities.
Even before the USA PATRIOT Act's new authorities became available, the Justice Department took bold steps to facilitate the sharing of information among governmental agencies. Days after the September 11 attacks, the Attorney General instructed all Department officials, including all federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents, to share with appropriate federal, state and local officials any information that exposes a credible threat to the safety of the American people or the national security of the United States. All Justice Department components were put on notice that the pursuit of a criminal investigation, the zeal to obtain a conviction, or the desire to protect a source should not override the need to protect our nation. In recent weeks, the President has consistently stressed that the overriding priority of the Department of Justice-and of our national government-must be to disrupt and prevent further terrorist attacks.
We also instituted a daily summary by the FBI of significant developments in the terrorism investigation, including information developed through grand jury investigations. Since the enactment of the new law, these summaries-- including any relevant grand jury and Title III wiretap information--are being distributed daily to the CIA and other relevant agencies.
These new information-sharing authorities will be effective, however, only if our prosecutors can identify and exploit useful national security information. Today, therefore, the Department is taking steps to ensure that law enforcement personnel are properly trained in the use of all available resources in the war on terrorism-particularly how to identify foreign intelligence, and with whom to share it for prompt analysis and follow-up. The Anti-terrorism Coordinators in the U.S. Attorneys offices will meet for a national training session next week, which will incorporate the legislation's new information-sharing powers.
If we are to prevail in the war on terror, however, it is not enough for the right hand simply to know what the left hand is doing. The right hand must also assist the left hand in accomplishing its tasks. The new legislation enables federal officials to cooperate in precisely that way, by facilitating cooperation between law enforcement officers and intelligence officials under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Historically, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, has unduly limited coordination between prosecutors in the Justice Department's Criminal Division and FBI investigators by restricting their ability to share information and advice with each other. The USA PATRIOT Act eases these restrictions. For example, the Act expressly authorizes intelligence agents conducting FISA surveillance to consult with federal law enforcement officers in an effort to coordinate their efforts to prevent terrorist attacks. Such coordination is critical if we are to enhance the federal government's capacity to prevent terrorist acts.
In addition, the Act permits the use of FISA authorities where foreign intelligence gathering is "a significant" purpose of an investigation. The previous requirement was that intelligence be the investigation's "primary" purpose. This change will facilitate communication and coordination between counterintelligence and criminal investigators. The Department will not, however, use FISA for the purpose of investigating routine offenses by domestic criminals.
Finally, the Department has taken quick action to implement the USA PATRIOT Act's emphasis on preventing and disrupting terrorist acts by conducting a comprehensive review of existing guidelines for national security and criminal investigations. These guidelines, which provide field agents with critical guidance on when and how to open investigations, were created in a bygone era of law enforcement.
We are taking a fresh, hard look at these guidelines to ensure that our agents and investigators can take full advantage of new authorities in the USA PATRIOT Act. For example, prior to passage of the Act, if a foreign police official reported important information to an American intelligence official, the matter typically was opened as an intelligence investigation and little if any of the information ever made its way to criminal investigators. If the information was first reported to criminal investigators, the pattern was repeated, with little information going to intelligence officials.
The new law has largely eliminated these barriers to information-sharing and we are reassessing our guidelines accordingly. We will ensure that our guidance to our agents and investigators reflects our new priorities: a full and effective information-sharing in order to prevent and disrupt terrorist activities.
In closing, I want to reaffirm that the Department of Justice is committed to supporting our government's common mission to eradicate the threat of terrorism. We did not seek this war, but we will fight it with every weapon in our arsenal within the rule of law. There will be maximum sharing, to the fullest extent permitted by law, of terrorist-related information with all federal officials engaged in our joint fight against terrorism. We will break down the bureaucratic and cultural barriers that prevent meaningful cooperation between the Justice Department and federal intelligence agencies, as well as within the Department itself. And we will devote every resource to frustrating the plans of the evildoers before they can claim another innocent American life.
I know we can count on each of you to commit yourself fully to this critical effort.
*NOTE: Mr. Thompson frequently speaks from notes and may depart from the speech as prepared. However, he stands behind the speech as presented in written format.